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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Bin Laden's Women

Aired March 12, 2002 - 08:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The big question this hour: Who are the women in Osama bin Laden's life? The leader of the al Qaeda network and the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks on America on September 11 has a mother and four wives. Where these women are and what they might say about bin Laden's whereabouts could prove very useful the the United States as they attempt to track bin Laden down.

National security correspondent David Ensor joins us with more now from Washington, his weekly intelligence brief.

David, good to see you.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Take us through these five women and what we know about them and what they may provide that would be useful in the search for the son/husband.

ENSOR: Well, as you can imagine, these women are of intense interest to U.S. intelligence and its allied intelligence services, but very little has been said in public about them. I'm about to tell you more than has ever been said before in public.

First of all his mother, his mother is Syrian born. Her name is Hamida (Alia) al-Attas. She has remarried to Mr. Attas and she lives quietly in Saudi Arabia. She has not, I am told, been actually asked for a DNA sample. She may soon be asked by Saudi government officials because that would be very useful to U.S. intelligence if it were to be obtained.

She is -- the interesting thing about her is she -- according to bin Laden himself in an interview, she never was actually married to bin Laden's father. It was not a Quranic union. She was a concubine, in effect, and this is a source of some unhappiness on the part of bin Laden and it may explain something about his psyche.

Now the four wives. Let me go through them. The first wife is Syrian also and her name is Najwan Ibrahim Ghanem. She lives in Damascus. She is the mother of about 11 of the roughly 25 or 26 children that bin Laden has. The second wife is Saudi, the third, Afghan. We are not sure where they are now, but two of the wives are believed to have been in Pakistan, at least until recently. The fourth wife, 19 years old, Amal al-Sadah is from Yemen. She married him when she was 17, two years ago. And she is believed to be back in Yemen, but that much is not for sure, Jack.

CAFFERTY: What possible benefit could these women have to American intelligence officials looking for Osama bin Laden? The stuff that I've been reading, they seem to indicate that they haven't heard from bin Laden since the events of September the 11th, that he is somewhere parts unknown.

ENSOR: Well that's right, although there's an interview -- an interesting interview in "Al-Majalla," which is a Saudi exile magazine, with a woman who's described as one of the wives, whose initials are said to be A.S. That would be Amal al-Sadah, if it's correct. She says that she was -- she describes in some detail how her life has gone since September 11th, how she was moved to a safe house in southern Afghanistan, then lived in a cave for a couple of months, and then was turned over by one of bin Laden's sons to Pakistani government officials in Pakistan, and how has moved to yet another country.

She talks about bin Laden as refusing to confirm that he was behind these terrorist incidents. She says she doesn't think he was a terrorist, but she says that he talked about young men having done something to the United States to teach it a lesson. She said that he suffered from pain in his kidneys and had trouble sleeping and took a lot of tranquilizers. I mean there's a good deal of personal insights that these women could offer, and you can assume that they are closely watched, at least by the intelligence services of the countries in which they now reside -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: It's fascinating stuff. Thank you David. I appreciate it. David Ensor, CNN's national security correspondent joining us this morning from Washington, D.C. -- the women in Osama bin Laden's life.

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